The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag

“Once upon a time, a demon who desired earthly domination fathered an army of dark daughters to help him corrupt humanity . . .

“As children, Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea dreamed of a strange otherworld: a nightscape of mists and fog, perpetually falling leaves and hungry ivy, lit by an unwavering moon. Here, in this shadowland of Everwhere, the four girls, half-sisters connected by blood and magic, began to nurture their elemental powers together. But at thirteen, the sisters were ripped from Everwhere and separated. Now, five years later, they search for one another and yearn to rediscover their unique and supernatural strengths.”

Grimm

Everyone seems to have a favourite sister. I love Scarlet, but I am probably biased. My eldest granddaughter is called Scarlett (with an extra ‘t’) so it’s no doubt favouritism by association. She’s only five and a half, doesn’t have red hair and can’t shoot fire from her fingertips (yet) but I think of her when reading. No-one likes Bea much, which is a shame because she is misunderstood and misdirected and the only true-blood Grimm. Goldie should be my favourite but she isn’t only by default – see Scarlet above – and Liyana is up there with Goldie. But in reality, I love them all, including Leo.

I’m not sure why some people found the POVs confusing or the timelines. They are clearly marked in the headings and each character’s voice is unique, whether written in the first person (Goldie) or third. I know the jumping back and forth from when they are young to now is confusing in some books but the author has done it so well that I never forgot where we were. I almost gave it five stars as the writing is so beautiful and lyrical but I thought it was a bit overlong and the ending was not to my taste but that’s all I can say due to no spoilers. I have read four of the author’s other books but The House At The End of Hope Street is still my favourite. A fabulous read though and highly recommended for lovers of fantasy and magical realism.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and the other Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read and to the author for popping in to ‘read’ with us.

The Dilemma by BA Paris

I can’t believe I’m only giving this three stars as it’s so well written, heart-breaking and sad. It’s a tale of family love, separation, sorrow, misunderstanding and tragedy. That should make a wonderful read, shouldn’t it? But something is missing. Once we discover the two threads that form the basis of the story it just dragged and dragged till in the end I just wanted to scream ‘just tell her and get it over with’. I waited for the twist that would surely come. But no. It really went out not with a bang but a whimper.

But the other things that frustrated me. The party. I just didn’t get it. Twenty years she had waited for a birthday party that would make up for the wonderful wedding she never had. It made her look a bit bonkers to be honest. They could have renewed their vows after 10 years or so. We got married in a registry office and renewed our vows after twenty five years in church because my husband knew it meant a lot to me (no wedding dress or anything over the top). Then there was Adam’s treatment of her in the first few years. She forgave him so easily and put it down to his youth. Really? More selfishness.

Having said that I rocketed through it in two sittings but it would have been better if the whole thing had been cut by half. Then it would have been at least 4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC.

A bucket list for wimps

Last year my daughter-in-law made a bucket list of ‘thirty before thirty’. She attempted to do thirty things she had always wanted to do before her thirtieth birthday.

While my next milestone birthday is eight years away and yes I have plenty of time the list would contain rather more than thirty items so let’s not go there. I think 10 things to do before you…. well you know what I mean… would be a more sensible idea and one that I might achieve providing they are all a) simple b) cheap and c) require no heights, scary rides, turning over a canoe with me in it or spiders. Oh yes or climbing an active volcano which is apparently one of the most popular bucket list ideas. That’s out too. I like the heat but that’s going too far. So here goes.

  1. Ride a Segway round Malta – or Gozo will do. I plan to do this very soon. I keep telling my husband it will be fun and involve minimal physical effort. And I bought a bum bag on eBay and a pair of sneakers from Primark for £3 so I am well kitted out!
  2. Achieve my desired weight and stay there. Dismal failure so far. I sort of did it last year for my son’s wedding but most of it is back and I no longer feel motivated. So please can someone get married very soon. I need something to aim for. Thank you.
  3. Help at a local shelter on Christmas Day. Last year we went away for Christmas and it was great but this year we may be on our own and I know I am going to hate it. It has some painful memories too as I lost my grandmother on Christmas Day many moons ago and it still hurts. I love Christmas Eve and Boxing Day but the day itself is not my favourite. So maybe we will offer to help at a local shelter if they want us.
  4. Go to Budapest and take a thermal bath in the spa waters. I’ve always wanted to do this. OK so I could just go to Bath and do it. If the money runs out I may have to settle for that. So let’s call this one – take the spa waters anywhere I can afford at the time. I’d still rather it was Budapest though.
  5. Go on a river cruise down the Danube which could be combined with number 4 as this bucket list is starting to look rather more expensive than I intended it to be. River cruises are aimed at posh, wealthy, middle aged people. One out of three isn’t bad. You can guess which category I fall into by now.
  6. Visit Iceland and see the Northern Lights otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis. You can also see this magnificent natural phenomenon in Sweden, Finland or Norway so any of those would do too. At this point winning the lottery is probably going to need to come in my list somewhere.
  7. Go on a ghost hunt. This is better. I live in a very haunted part of the country so this one should be easy. Our local pub is haunted and it is said that sometimes the door won’t open as if someone is pushing from the other side. This actually happened to me one evening and no I hadn’t been on the Gin and Tonic.
  8. Start swimming regularly again. I used to swim lengths at my local gym at lunchtimes when I worked from home and it was good for me. Now I have a degree of arthritis in both knees and one wrist it would be a great form of exercise. I was chatting to an acquaintance the other day who swims three times a week at the local open air Lido. She was on her way there. It was raining. ‘So what,’ she said, ‘I’m going to get wet anyway’. She had a point. I thought she was brave. My friend Lynn said that brave wasn’t the word that sprung to mind.
  9. Write a novel and become a best seller. I’ve self-published a book of short stories and have written a 20,000 word novella which is at the proof reading stage where it has been for longer than I care to admit. It still doesn’t have a proper title either. But a ‘real’ novel of 50,000 to 200,000 words. Now that’s a different story if you’ll excuse the pun.
  10. Make a difference in the world. I’d like to know that something I did really changed something. I know I can’t do this by myself but I would like to be part of a movement for real change. Like the suffragettes (though I don’t intend to throw myself under anyone’s horse) and we already have the vote. Ghandi once said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ Start something, spread the word, educate others and inspire them. Too big? Everything starts from a simple idea. Now that’s the most worthwhile idea on my bucket list.